Corbyn and the pacifists
(11:40) Corbyn wins (BBC R4).
Published 13 Sep 2015
We are reacting emotionally because 12 people were killed in Paris, but there are hundreds being killed day in, day out in Syria and Iraq, and still we send more bombs.Oh dear, that last phrase. Most of the people killed in Syria are by bombs sent by the Assad government , while in Iraq and Syria, ISIL are carrying out massacres and cold-blooded executions and it is against them that we are sending bombs.
So far there have been mercifully few attempts to make the usual, kneejerk move, insisting that the animating grievance must be western foreign policy. It is hard to draw that conclusion when the targets have been a satirical magazine and a shop selling salt beef and pickles.It did not take long for that to be done, by none other, perhaps unsurprisingly, than former French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin. His views were echoed (again unsurprisingly) by Alain Gresh of Le Monde Diplomatique. This is de Villepin:
The West has created Islamic terrorism and ISIL is the nasty child of the arrogance of the West's policies.De Villepin's views on the 2003 intervention in Iraq are of course well known and often repeated. There is a strong argument that the action was not justified, was even counter-productive in terms of the fight against terrorism (or jihadists or violent islamism). It is a well-worn refrain that "there was no al Qaeda in Iraq before 2003" (though there was some, near the Iranian border, but probably not with the collusion of the regime). But it should also not be forgotten that there was no al Qaeda in Syria before, without any intervention from the West, its people carried out an uprising against a dictator, which was brutally suppressed.
The Western intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Mali has led to an increase in the number of the jihadists (Inside Story, AJE, 11.1)
I,Amedy Coulibaly did kill a trainee policewoman in Montrouge in the South of Paris, before killing 4 Jewish people at a kosher supermarket in porte de Vincennes in the east of the city (Coulibaly's partner and Chérif Kouachi's wife al Qaeda in Yemen. ... Did we kill civilians during the two days you've been looking for us. had exchanged more than 500 'phone calls the previous year, French authorities revealed). Elsa Cayat ("Charlie Divan") was among those killed at Charlie Hebdo. The Kouachis did spare Corinne Rey ("Coco"), who was about to leave to pick up her daughter from kindergarten, but threatened her with their guns, forcing her to enter the security code giving them access to the magazine's offices.
Interviewer: you killed journalists.
But did we kill civilians? Civilians or people during the two days that you looked for us?
Interviewer: Wait, wait, We are not killers. .. We don't kill women. We kill no one. .. We are not like you. You are the ones killing [ inaudible] muslims [ or women and children, according to the English subtitles] in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. [..]
Interviewer: But you took revenge there nonetheless, you killed 12 people.
As recently as last week on a website he used both to defend and promote himself, he announced that he had converted from Shia to Sunni Islam and pledged his allegiance to the caliphate declared by the militant group Islamic State [ISIL]. That website was shut down as Monday’s siege developed, and police asked media outlets to refrain from giving him a platform as he held 17 hostages in the Lindt cafe in Martin Place.
Sydney Shia leaders had apparently urged federal police to probe his claim to be a leading cleric, while he was ignored by the Sunni community. He had no links to the Islamic State terrorist group, and despite his criminal past was not seen as a likely exponent of the group’s ideology.See also Jonathan Rugman's report on C4N (15/12). According to C4N, Monis posted on his website:
"I used to be a Rafidi, but not anymore. Now I am a Muslim, Alhamdu Lillah”...
he emerged on the Twitter scene around the beginning of 2013. At that time, he would often try to engage certain, more prominent Twitter users on issues related to the Islamic world, myself among them. For instance, one of his first tweets to me was to criticise a rather inane tweet I had written on a ‘Bangladesh Spring’ victory over Islamists.
His perspective was clearly that of an Islamist but- undoubtedly through prior tracking of social media- he seemed to have a broad knowledge of Syria’s Sunni insurgency with a particular focus on Salafi and jihadi groups, something that extended to Libya in particular and the wider Muslim world [..]. Other indications of his Islamist leanings in those earlier times were his support for the Ikhwan-led government in Egypt [i.e. the Morsi / Muslim Brotherhood government ] - his main line of defence being that none of the Ikhwan’s opponents could necessarily do a better job at governance (not an unreasonable argument)- and his cheering on of Erdogan during the Gezi Park protests that erupted in May 2013. It was of course during this same period (i.e. April 2013 onwards) that IS’ predecessor the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) emerged: at that early stage of ISIS’ existence it would not necessarily be fair to characterize him as an ISIS partisan. On the contrary he was more keen on the notion of ‘Islamic rebel/jihadi unity’, so to speak: something that could include ISIS. In short, his worldview was of an Islamist who at least had hope in the gradualist non-violent Islamisation projects of Erdogan and the Ikhwan in Egypt while showing sympathy for jihadis more generally. [..]
Two events mark key points in Shami’s transformation from an apparently rather standard Islamist to the IS fanboy as so many have come to know him. [..] The first event was the coup against the Ikhwan-led government, which enraged him considerably. Yet even after this point, he had not yet become a full-blown ISIS partisan, but rather was still willing to give credence to forces like Jabhat al-Nusra (Syria’s al-Qa’ida affiliate) and the Islamic Front coalition, which contrasts him with other prominent hardline ISIS fans at the time [..]. Thus, the second main turning point was the outbreak of infighting between ISIS and rebel groups at the start of 2014. This completes his definite public transformation into the ISIS/IS fanboy. It is also this stage, it should be noted, where many of the other pro-jihadi Twitter users take more definite sides in contrast to a previous attempt at jihadi brotherology.This is worth reading in full.
the ceasefire has temporarily silenced critics on the right. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who last month called for a resumption of the occupation of the strip, now wants to hand it over to the United Nations - an organisation he has long demonised.
Hamas was pushed into inking a "unity deal" with Fatah, and a national consensus government was born. Netanyahu spent weeks trying to kill the deal, and was furious when the US and other nations endorsed the new government. He walked away from negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas precisely because of the agreement.
Netanyahu now wants to implement some of the terms of the deal in a permanent ceasefire with Hamas: negotiators want the agreement to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces control of Rafah crossing. "We have cooperated, and are cooperating, with the PA on [these] matters," Netanyahu said on Wednesday. "We’re prepared to see a role for them."
(Dalia Hatuqa reporting from Ramallah and Gregg Carlstrom from Tel Aviv.)...
There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership. Hamas is a terrorist organization – Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support....
The group calling itself the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL], has taken control of the rebel-held portion of the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, buoyed by advances in neighbouring Iraq has said. Rival rebel groups fighting against forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad either changed sides or fled from the strategic Euphrates valley city.
According to the [SOHR], which relies on a network of activists and medics on the ground, fighters from the Islamic State group were now in control of "95 to 98 percent of Deir Ezzor province". The regime-controls half of Deir Ezzor city, a handful of villages as well as the military airport.
The Observatory said that rivals of the Islamic State group, including fighters of al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, lost control after negotiations failed with the Islamic State group whose leadership last month declared a "caliphate" straddling Syria and Iraq. "Fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra and the [Islamist] rebel movement Ahrar al-Sham withdrew from their bases in the city, while others pledged their loyalty to [the] Islamic State," the Observatory said.
The rebel spokesman for Deir Ezzor confirmed the reports, blaming international backers of the anti-Assad opposition for a lack of support. Speaking to the AFP news agency via the Internet, Omar Abu Leyla said: "The withdrawal is a result of the lack of any formal financial backing [for the rebels] either from the [exiled] opposition or from the international community." [..]
[ISIL's] gains in Iraq have tipped the balance in the struggle for power in rebel-held areas of eastern and northern Syria where it has been fighting armed groups allied with al-Nusra since January. The Islamic State group already controls the city of Raqqa upstream from Deir Ezzor where it has enforced its hardline form of Islam, with public executions, including crucifixions. Abu Leyla added: "Islamic State has no shortage of weapons, ammunition or fighters, and the battle became totally asymmetrical, especially after its advance on Mosul and its capture of heavy weapons." (see also NGO: Jihadists expel rivals from Syria’s Deir Ezzor.)It seems to me that, largely unnoticed, there is a tragedy unfolding for the Syrian people and the broad alliance of groups that are fighting the regime.
even before its Iraqi surge, ISIS was steadily gaining ground in Deir Ezzor, because that is where it has focused its main combat resources in Syria. ISIS pulled back months ago from the main fronts with the regime in the north, and it has focused on seizing control of Deir Ezzor rather than seeking to gain significant ground elsewhere in the country. In contrast, al-Nusra and leading rebel factions fight ISIS in Deir while continuing to bear the burden of battles with the regime in Aleppo and throughout the north.President Obama has asked the US Congress to approve $500m
to train and equip what he described as "moderate" Syrian opposition forces. The funds would help Syrians defend against forces aligned with President Bashar al-Assad, the White House said. The aid would also counter Islamist militants such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis), it added. [..] it is unclear whether and when Congress would act on his request. (26/6)Update (2 Aug.)
what all this means is that the less extremist, non-jihadist groups in that area had already been forced into an alliance with the Al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, in a last-ditch effort to resist ISIS,I don't think they were forced into an alliance with Jabhat al-Nusra because of the threat from ISIL: they have been fighting alongside JN against the regime for a while; when the US State Department designated JN as a terrorist organization in late 2012 / early 2013, the Syrian Opposition Coalition spoke out against the decision.
The U.S., by agreeing to work with the new Palestinian government, has set a positive precedent. Along with the EU and its regional allies, it should encourage the [Palestinian Authority (PA)] to return to Gaza, per the reconciliation agreement, and discourage Israel from getting in the way. None of these parties need publicly to reverse its policy of trying to isolate and topple Hamas – though all would be well advised to, because that policy is misguided and has been counterproductive since it was adopted in 2007 – but each should give the reconciliation deal a chance to work.Update (31/7)
I’ve been struck, over the last few days, by the world’s indifference to Gaza’s fate. Perhaps this conflict has been demoted to the status of a Middle East sideshow by the cataclysms in Iraq and Syria.The Gaza conflict has been featured quite prominently by the BBC, for example. By contrast, Syria is pretty under-reported. I tend to find out from Al Jazeera English that ISIL (IS) continues to make advances in Deir Az Zor province (at the expense of other opposition fighter groups).
In the past it had the backing of Iran and Syria. But Hamas is an offshoot of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and when it sided with Sunni-led rebels opposed to the Alawite Bashar al-Assad and his Shia backers in Tehran, Iran responded by turning off the financial taps. Iran used to donate as much as $20m a month - enough to run the government in Gaza.
That didn't matter as long as Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was running Egypt. He strongly identified with Hamas and while he closed some tunnels which ran under the Gaza-Egypt border during his time in the presidential palace, others remained open. Those tunnels brought in weapons of course, but they were used to smuggle in consumer goods too, which Hamas was able to tax.
The new Egyptian government of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi considers the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organisation and sees Hamas as being cut from the same cloth. Many more smuggling tunnels have been closed down, and with them another source of revenue.
In desperation Hamas came to a sort of political reconciliation with its bitter rival Fatah which in its guise as the Palestinian Authority runs the West Bank under Israeli occupation.
Then, sit back and watch demographics and despair work their magic. No wonder Hamas officials who are seen as moderates urge a 50-year truce. By that time, Israeli Arabs will be able to simply vote the Jewish state off the map.So that's the argument for Israeli settlements on Palestinian land? What arguments do the peace movement have against that?
the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a savage terrorist army previously known as al-Qaida in Iraq, has routed the Iraqi army and now controls territory from the outskirts of Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq, even threatening Baghdad.Leaving aside the fact the whole of the Iraqi army has not collapsed, only 2 divisions, this is somewhat misleading as to the amount of control ISIL (ISIS) has (or had) in Syria and ignores the extent to which they had been pushed back by other rebel groups. Charles Lister, in a paper from May:
By late January 2014, ISIS had lost control of 28 separate municipalities across Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, al-Raqqa and Deir Ezzor governorates. Rather than suffering total defeats in these positions, however, ISIS strategically redeployed its forces into better-defended and more valuable positions, presumably preparing for its next move. This came on February 2 when a large ISIS force unexpectedly attacked and captured the financially valuable Conoco gas field (said to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars per week) from Jabhat al-Nusra and allied tribal forces in Deir Ezzor. This surprise attack [..] prompted a major counter-attack by Islamist militants (including Jabhat al-Nusra), FSA-branded fighters, and local tribesmen, resulting in ISIS’s near-total expulsion from the governorate by February 11. Meanwhile, continued pressure against ISIS in northern Syria saw the group withdraw from its positions in northern Aleppo on February 27 and redeploy eastwards, while by March 13 it had completely withdrawn from the northwestern governorates of Latakia and Idlib. This left ISIS in control of parts of eastern Aleppo and, crucially, the key transport routes leading to the jewel in ISIS’ crown: the city of al-Raqqa. There, the true face of the organization has since become clear with harsh punishments now being meted out, including the March 22 crucifixion of a man accused of murder.Even where it lost control of territory, though, ISIL continued to play a destructive role against forces fighting the Assad regime. It "has been blamed for several car bombings at rival group headquarters, checkpoints, and at the Bab al-Salameh and Bab al-Hawa border crossings with Turkey" and for the assassination of leaders from rival groups Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra.
The Turkish spokesman being quoted here expresses anger at the US for having, in his view, "created a Shia bloc to the south of our country."Of course the US is always to blame, "100% or more", as one AJE interviewee put it (Ayad al-Qazzaz of California State University, 28/6).
In 2006, [Joe] Biden and I [..] proposed instead that Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions “each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security.” Baghdad would be declared a federal zone, and the central government there would be tasked with controlling defense, foreign affairs and the equitable distribution of oil revenues.Jeff Weintraub (via e-mail):
Let me offer a strategy that prioritizes fighting the jihadis now and pushes for federalism later. [..] If the jihadis can be halted, then smashed [..] the Iraqis must turn back to politics and the principle of powersharing that they spurned not so long ago. [..] if the Iraqi Humpty Dumpty is to be made whole again, it can be only through a federal power-sharing formula.
Back during the negotiations that led to the 2005 constitutional settlement, the major party representing Shiite Arabs, SCIRI, favored comprehensive regionalized federalism. The representatives of Sunni Arab political forces were strongly committed to a centralized and unitary political structure--which united the Kurdish and Shiite representatives against them. But some other Shiite political forces also favored centralization and opposed decentralized federal structures--including the Sadrists and Maliki's Dawa Party.)Another thing you hear now is that "the Americans imposed a sectarian system on Iraq" (blame the US again). Jeff's recollection of the period is clearly much more detailed than mine, but what I recall in broad brush terms is that while it is undoubtedly true that the US imposed various things during the period when Paul Bremer was "viceroy", in the 2004-5 process of creating a constitution and getting an elected government, with Ayatollah Sistani (who has recently re-emerged from the shadows) playing an important role, Iraqis, as a majority, got what they wanted.
ISIL should not be considered part of the revolutionary opposition. It has fought Free Syrian Army (FSA) divisions as well as Kurdish groups; it has assassinated FSA and more moderate Islamist commanders and abducted revolutionary activists. It serves the regime's agenda by terrifying minority groups, deterring journalists, and influencing the calculations of men like the former US ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker who wrote (from a deficit of both information and principle, and with stunning short-sightedness): "We need to come to terms with a future that includes Assad - and consider that as bad as he is, there is something worse."
Indeed, many Syrians are convinced that ISIL is an Assad creation, or even a collaborative work of Assad and the great powers. Why else, they ask, does Turkey, a NATO member, make it so easy for foreign militants to cross the border? Why has the regime bombed the schools and marketplaces of Raqqa (a city held by ISIL for half a year), but not the well-known ISIL headquarters?
This alliance of seven leading Islamist factions [the Islamist (or Islamic) Front, fighting against ISIL] was cobbled together last fall, and so far seems much more disciplined, certainly better armed, than the FSA ever was. Its eclipsing of the secular FSA happened not despite Western policy (as many journalists insist on misleadingly describing them as "Western-backed") but because of it. The vanishing of Obama's "red line" and his handing the Syria file over to Putin after the mass Sarin gas attacks of August 2, catalysed the Islamist realignment, and probably a burst of Saudi largesse.
Human Rights Watch in the slaughter in Lattakia province in August 2013 - so far the only documented large-scale massacre of Alawi civilians. The organisation denies involvement.That , the largest organisation in the [Islamist] Front, was implicated by Isabel Hunter about events in Jarabulus, illustrates both this and the fightback by :
The brutality of ISIL in regaining control in some towns in the North seems to exceed even that with which they established control in September (see, for example, events in Azaz).
Al-Qaeda's [ISIL's] extreme tactics goes a long way to explain how they have reclaimed much of the territory in northern Syria. Despite being fewer in number than the opposing rebel factions, their use of terror and increasing use of attacks on civilians is winning out. (Al-Qaeda slaughters on Syria's killing fields, 21/1)